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Umpqua River Lighthouse Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow?

The U.S. Coast Guard, the owner of the Umpqua River Lighthouse, is evaluating whether the light is still needed for navigation. If not, the two-ton first-order lens and its 616 colored and clear glass panels that were cut by hand in Paris could be removed and placed in a museum.

lense-Umpqua_River_LightBy Lori Newman for the Umpqua Post,  August 18, 2010

While many are worried that the U.S. Coast Guard will decide to remove the handcrafted Fresnel lens from Winchester Bay's lighthouse, Friends of Umpqua River Light is going ahead with plans to host a 116th birthday bash for the lighthouse and its famous red and white lens next month.

The event is shaping up to be a major celebration of the lighthouse's 153-year history, and a special recognition of the first-order Fresnel lens that was commissioned into service on New Year's Eve, 1894.

The Sept. 24-25 event will include a dinner, a silent auction, a reception at the lighthouse and boathouse, special museum exhibits, at least half a dozen expert speakers and evening tours of the lighthouse... Umpqua Post Article

Umpqua River Lighthouse State Park & Museum

Umpqua_River_LighthouseUmpqua Lighthouse State Park is located less than a mile from the famous Salmon Harbor on Winchester Bay. The campground and developed day use areas are centered around beautiful Lake Marie. Access to this small freshwater lake is provided for angling and non-motorized boating. There is also a small sandy beach set aside for swimming or just relaxing.

The small overnight campground offers RV and tent campsites, along with two beautiful one-room log cabins. These warm and cozy cabins sleep four comfortably. They also have covered porches which overlook picturesque Lake Marie. Two rustic yurts and six deluxe yurts are also available in the campground (the deluxe yurts feature restrooms, a kitchenette, TV/VCR and beds). Showers and restrooms are centrally located. This beautiful and quiet campground has yet to be discovered by crowds of camping enthusiasts.

The park is centered in the stretch of towering sand dunes protected by the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area. These dunes, many of which reach heights of 500 feet or more, are ideal for the off-road enthusiast, or for the person who enjoys the magnificent wonders of nature. For more information about the dunes and the recreational opportunities offered, contact the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area visitor center in nearby Reedsport or call (541) 271-3611.

At the entrance to Winchester Bay and at the mouth of the Umpqua River, stands a sentinel of the ocean, casting its red and white beams of light some 20 miles out to sea. The 65-foot tower is situated on a hill 100 feet above sea level surrounded by US Coast Guard buildings and a Museum.

An earlier light structure, the first on the Oregon Coast, was built in 1857 on the south side of the river. It fell into the swollen water seven years later during a storm when the water eroded away the sand.

umpqua_lakeThe current lighthouse was started in 1890 and was illuminated in 1894. It is the sister lighthouse to the one at Heceta Head just a few miles north of Florence. Both structures were built from the same plans.

The Umpqua Light shines through a first order Fresnel lens made of 616 glass prisms handcrafted in France and weighing two tons.

It is a beautiful display of fine craftsmanship and produces a spectacular colored light show at dusk. This is especially true if there is a very light mist in the air. The light rotates out to sea and on the trees behind it on the landward side. The light shines 24 hours a day, but visit after dark or before sunrise, if you possibly can. As you enter Umpqua Lighthouse State Park, down a winding road, the light's rainbow beacon rotates through the tall pines with alternating white, white and red beams. The 65 foot tower is brick covered with white stucco, but you will not be able to take you eyes off this fantastic lens.

UMPQUAThe lens assembly was originally turned by a clockwork mechanism much like a grandfather clock, powered by a huge weight which had to be wound up by the lightkeeper every four hours.

This motive power is now performed by an electric motor and monitored by sophisticated equipment, which notifies the Coast Guard station if a malfunction occurs.

The original oil lamp has been replaced with a high powered 1,000 watt electric bulb. A spare bulb is mounted on a panel, which automatically moves it into place should the first one burn out.

In November of 1983 the old chariot wheel mechanism that rotates the light broke down. The Coast Guard promptly installed an airport beacon on the tower and made plans to remove the original lens. Local residents launched a storm of protest until the Coast Guard relented and repaired the rotating apparatus.

The lighthouse and adjacent museum are operated and maintained by the Douglas County Parks Department and the US Coast Guard. Tours are offered May 1 through September 30

Umpqua Lighthouse Museum